The Bells of the Campanile: La Marangona

The largest bell in the San Marco campanile — there are five, and they each have a name — is called la Marangona. There is certainly no mistaking that superb, resonant, all-encompassing BONG, in distinct contrast to the chorus of energetic chiming from around the rest of the city at any appointed time. This largest one rang out in the past to time the work-day, the smallest to annouce an execution. (It’s been while, yes.)

campaniile At midnight, that massive bell resounds da sola, proudly, from high in the Piazza, and can be heard from almost any point in the city. Sometimes I call friends in the US so they can hear, especially the ones who’ve been here before. I just open the window and stick the phone out in to the calle. Che nostalgia.

If you’re out and about with a Venetian and the bell sounds, Aaaa, they’ll say with a glance and a nod, La senti? È la Marangona. If you allow it, you’ll be reminded just how often, on how many midnights, and for how many centuries, this small scene has been repeated.)

11 thoughts on “The Bells of the Campanile: La Marangona

  1. Shannon

    I love La Marangona. I used it to measure time when I lived in Venice, and still do when I visit.

    When I lived there I wrote in my journal every night without fail, and every entry would list what time it was, by when the Marangona rang. So, it would be “fifteen minutes before the bell” or “four hours after the bell…”

    How I miss that sound! Feel free to call me anytime you want to share it.

    Reply
  2. Stefano

    The Marangona is probably one of the most ancient bells in the world.

    In fact Venetians took it from Costantinopoli in the 13th century. The fabrication of this Bell is dated on the first centuries after Christ and it has been built to produce a pure sound and not the tipycal redundant sound of modern bells.

    So if you’re listening the Marangona sound, probably you’re listening to one of the most ancient sounds, produced by a man, in the world.

    Reply
  3. nan

    Thanks, Stefano. Giovanni tells me that the Marangona is Venetian for felegname, or carpenter, whose trade union donated the original funds to have the bells mounted, and the beginning and ending of whose workday it tolled. This grand bell was the only one that survived the collapse of the Campanile in 1902.

    It’s called in Venetian El paròn de casa (Il padrone di casa, Master of the House).

    Reply
  4. nan

    I have no official answer but I believe the tone is Bb, with heavy Eb overtones…at least according to a recording matched with both a Garageband and electric piano tone. Here’s a youtube version.

    Reply
  5. alice mcadams

    do the bells sound all night–or do they stop at midnight

    when do they start up again in the morning?

    Thanks
    Alice

    Reply
  6. Andrea

    The current Marangona was cast in 1820 and it’s the only bell that survived the collapse of the tower in 1909. It weights kg. 3625, the diameter is cm. 180 and the note is A.

    Reply
  7. Tan

    I fell madly in love with the bells when I was in Venice and took some recordings of them for future use. unfortunately, my bags were stolen just before we left and my camera and my recording unit were taken. I am a composition student at uni and am writing a piece about the bells but do not know where to get a recording of them that is available for use (free of copyright.) Can anyone help me? I would be forever greatful.

    Reply
  8. Gwailo54

    Tan,

    There are, surprise, surprise, many recordings of the bells in San Marco on YouTube. Despite the wind I reckon the movie clip I took has a pretty good sound quality. Forget the images the sound is what I was after!

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GRi_NJ3bLAw

    If you are a composer (and not just studying) then I wish you well. It’s tough out there and there are many composition casualties in the world, me included. Even if you don’t make it big, remember, not many are capable of creating sounds, no matter how modest the gift.

    Reply

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